I'm a 32 year old male and my tastes in animation are broad and varied but they mainly include Disney movies. However, I like watching movies and shows that are different and seem to stand out to me.
Animation, Acting, Singing, Dancing
Animation that I love:
The Fox and the Hound, Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, Avatar: The Last Airbender
At a basic level, SvtFOE reminds me of an odd mix or Courage the Cowardly Dog and Sailor Moon, were Sailor Moon somehow made into a witch that looks like Betty Spaghetti and saddled with freakish magical powers strong enough to destroy the very fabric of all space and time(as well as turn stuff into fluffy laser shooting puppies).
As I was watching Marco and Star do their... dimension hopping thing(done via a black hole carving pair of scissors), I realized that Marco and Star had chemistry, chemistry I haven't seen in a cartoon since, well, probably Batman and Robin or the aforementioned Powerpuff Girls. In any standard cartoon, Star would've been the damsel in distress, written in only for romance, with Marco being the one to save the day. Or a male and female hero team would've gone off into obvious directions, such as irreconcilable differences between girly and macho. While there might still be time later on to sneak in the mushy stuff, it is never heavily leaned on that there could be romantic tension between the two. Despite her magical pretty princess outward appearance, Star is also quite capable of delivering a punch to the face. Marco is karate expert but is also just a normal human boy(and is thus probably the more likely of the two to get captured). He also likes a ringtone called Space Unicorn.
The characterizations of these two honestly made me start to care for them. Certainly enough to laugh at the lame jokes and sight gags, as if they were played straight. And certainly enough to go along for the ride during the episode's intriguingly gripping climax, upon reflection of which, I never realized this show's episodes HAD climaxes. It was such a shame the writers had to sabotage the emotional impact somewhat by resorting to a deus ex machina. Even so, I can't wait to see what weirdness Season Two brings. They really should try and kick up the villains.
Blu and Jewel are just as cute as since when we first left them way back in the first movie(which didn't seem all as long ago as it really is). They've settled into each other and are just as madly in love. But to get one thing out of the way, Blu and Jewel are not some fairy tale prince and princess living out some fantasy romance for all time. I think this is what makes them so appealing to me. Granted, there have been other animated romances that don't fit the "prince and princess" mold ala Disney, including a couple of anthropomorphized cars, but there's something about Blu and Jewel that seem to stand out more to me. They are suburbia given feathers. They dance and cuddle in one scene. Then in the next, they are in a comfortable routine of modern life. They have foibles and look like they had gotten into their odd spats a couple times in the past. They are a flawed and real-ish, if not realistic, couple that don't lose any of the wonderful romantic gooeyness of any of the more well known Disney couples. Plus they have to deal with family life, for now they come with kids because "Like OMG, they had seeeeeeeeeeeex!"
Oh. Maybe that's why I like them. Lest we forget the main point of the first movie. Then corporate headquarters came to a brilliant realization that incest is wrong, leading to the plot of this movie.
"Hey! There are more of us out there!"
Blu and Jewel's routines of smoochiness one minute and neurosis the next almost made me forget that I was supposed to be watching a movie with other details to pay attention to. This movie honestly doesn't have the smoothness and cohesiveness of the first one and almost threatens to fall apart about halfway in. In fact where the first one made minor mistakes in its comedic timing, this movie makes a major mistake in packing way... too... much... STUFF! Seriously. You have NO idea how many tiny subplots go on in this film unless you actually see the movie. This leaves quite a few interesting threads not quite as fulfilling as they should be. The "grumpy father-in-law" story isn't as "Meet the Fockers" as it needs to be. The "Romeo old flame" story isn't as "Jealousy Jealouspants" as it needs to be. There's a heavy-handed Ferngully-esque "save the trees" story shoehorned in, an out of nowhere game of bird buddy blitzball, and a talent-scouting plot that for some reason leads to a scene of accidental nightmare fuel. It's enough to make one dizzy.
This isn't enough to make me not enjoy a film like this, though. Although poor Nigel, the menacing villain of the first movie, has been relegated to something of a comic relief, the movie gives us a couple secondary characters to occasionally shift attention away from our main couple to give some variety. The kids are great and occasionally funny. They are just on the right side of cuddly without seeming like pushover balls of fluff. Then there's a cute poison frog with some kind of unrequited crush on Nigel. She sings some kind catchy love song that kind of reminds me Phantom of the Opera in its broodingness. Then there's Aunt Mimi. Oh Aunt Mimi, lay off the coffee!
It's such a shame this movie had to end feeling like it couldn't find a cohesive vision like the first one did. The sequel actually doesn't have so much groan-inducing humor as the first one and even has better songs. But the characters and Blu and Jewel's nuclear family antics more than make up for the shortcomings. And there's always still love, the Latin beat, and Rio.
Somewhere along the way, whether it was by a stroke of luck or a shift in attitudes, cartoon companies started realizing, probably inadvertently, that kids weren't stupid. I credit a general increase in the quality of animation, voice acting, and writing and not so much a reduction in the desire of the parent companies to sell cheaply made toys. In any case, the result was a release of several series reboots that were, shockingly, quite good. I won't pretend to delineate notable points in animation history. My knowledge of decent reboots only goes back to 2003, the year of not only the millennial version of Astroboy but also of a smile-worthy tv series version of Strawberry Shortcake.
But if lines are to be drawn, I would draw them big and bold around the headquarters of relative newcomer to family entertainment, The Hub, circa 2010. For obvious reasons. Their flagship Friendship Is Magic may not have kick started a brand new era, but its success certainly helped to usher in a whole line of decent cartoons. The new Pound Puppies follows the same mold as The Hub's other hit cartoons. Likable. Modernized. Attractive. Funny.
As with Friendship Is Magic, there will be those who will take a look at the hip new look and Flash animation of the new Pound Puppies and go "You know. I miss the pudgy look of the old days." Yeah they can have it. I may have always had a certain endearment to My Little Pony, but Pound Puppies was hardly on my radar growing up, other than vividly remembering the laughable villains, one of whom always said something like "Icky Poo Puppies", and the blatant 80s-isms. With me, concerning reboots, what matters most is not how much it mines old material or stays true to the franchise but how well it sets up its characters and story, or to a lesser extent, its world, while still giving a little something for both new and old-comers to the established franchise.
With Friendship is Magic, we were given a world of an indeterminate size, populated with intelligent equines and any manner of wild creatures and monsters hiding in the corners, and stuffed to the gills with possibilities, fourth wall breaking, and of course, magic. Pound Puppies shrinks the borders of our world and gives us tiny, mundane Shelter 17.
There's an in joke in there somewhere. The astute will probably pick it up. You see apparently Pound Puppies is modeled after several well known affable "heroic buddy" tales, mostly Hogan's Heroes and Stalag 17. The show sets up a theme of "the secret world of puppies and their operation of the day". Each episode, the titular puppies operate like a gang of secret of agents, pull off their job, make a kid happy, and then come back before the bumbling manager of the shelter wises up to their antics.
Honestly? Why couldn't the old version have been like this? It's such a simple concept but one that the 80s would've screwed up and sugar-coated royally a thousand times over. This version, much like Littlest Pet Shop, tries its best to make sure the dogs are readily identifiable through their different personalities and yet still seem like regular animals. Whatever the old Pound Puppies was, it made the characters seem little more than people with fur and non-opposable thumbs.
It is through this small shelter world and this theme of madcap schemes and secret sneaking that we're probably introduced to elements more readily approachable and recognizable than magical ponies or "fashion girl bumps her head and can suddenly talk to pets", and that is the feelings, trials and tribulations of our furry four-legged friends. I would actually recommend Pound Puppies, even though it's arguable the most mundane of The Hub's four or five big cartoon franchises, to any parent not quite willing to get around the gender divisions of which is for boys or for girls or are uncertain about Friendship is Magic's almost Looney Tunes-esque energy and Littlest Pet Shop's spoofing. Pound Puppies is that happy jack-of-all trades.
Unfortunately this means that Pound Puppies tends to get lost in the shuffle in the more grown up circles concerning animation discussions, as it doesn't hit a home run in any particular field. It's happy to stay in the middle and doesn't even offer any singing(which might be a good thing if you're allergic to cartoons showboating). Even so, there are funny and endearing nuggets of characterization, many of which are relevant to kids, to dogs, and sometimes to both. This show is as educational as it is funny and cheerful. One memorable tidbit occurs in a pair of episodes, in which Squirt discovers he has a double named Cuddlesworth Wigglebottom. The switcheroo that follows is funny enough, but not only is the plight of both Squirt and Cuddlesworth totally relatable and also hysterical, but over the course of the two episodes, we're also introduced to Cuddlesworth feline friend, Madame Pickypuss, but also dropped hints that the two could possibly be "like that".
The other main characters are sure to find someone who will make him or her a favorite, as they each settle into his or her own tried and true archetype. But I imagine Squirt would be the biggest choice. My only bone to pick(ha ha) is that the leader, Lucky, is too excruciatingly perfect. Perhaps this was to make him seem like the original's gang leader. Calm and collected. And also boring. If he had any flaws, it would be his lack of flaws. Even Twilight Sparkle had plenty.
At any rate, I don't go out of my way to watch this show, but I honestly can't find anything wrong with it. The new Pound Puppies is amusing in doses and also assuredly better than the original.
This seems to be only loosely based on the 1990s version. Here the pets seem like actual animals whereas what little I've seen of the 90s version made it seem like the pets had very human qualities. The show gets off to a clunky start. In fact, the first episode had comedic timing so utterly terrible, I almost wrote off the whole show as unwatchable. Most of the teeth-grinding occurs around the father, an airline pilot who somehow is the worst driver in the whole of America(or wherever they decided to stick fictional Downtown City). Thankfully, Littlest Pet Shop finds its stride somewhere around episode 4.
The animation has the same bright and attractive "pop" as Friendship is Magic but none of the, shall we say, "sizzle". Even if this show wasn't destined to grab the huge crossover appeal as Friendship is Magic, Littlest Pet Shop seems like the kind of show that would fit well with the programs of Qubo or PBS Kids and not make the adults want to tear their hair out. It's probably not a coincidence that the best episodes were written by old hands of Friendship is Magic while the sub-par ones seem to be written by the show's creators, the Cahills, of My Gym Partner's a Monkey infamy.
Thankfully, we've got great characters to fill in the gaps. The humans could use some work(they've got that paper doll look like the old Flash classic 6Teen) but aren't too terrible. Blythe is perky and talented. The Biskit Twins you couldn't even bring yourself to hate because they're so two dimensional and lifeless, not even possessing the spark of life Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon brought to the bullies in Friendship is Magic. Mrs. Twombly is a bag of complications and probably the most memorable human character in the show.
However the star of the show is, naturally, the pets, and they bring the A Game of humor.
Zoe Trent is a Cavalier King Charles who has Twilight Sparkle's coloration but Rarity's over-acting and prissiness. She loves to be the center of attention and is a bit of a diva. However, she's very talented at singing and isn't mean-spirited. Some of the show's best humor involve scenes that jump from her doing a musical number to the viewpoint of random humans and you see the scene go from a catchy tune to the sight of a puppy just jumping around and barking.
Pepper Clark is a brash young pet who, rather surprisingly, is a gray skunk. She fancies herself as some kind of comedienne. She once tried insult humor but gave it up when it resulted in hurt feelings. Her brashness usually means that she is often oblivious to when she pushes too far, but mostly her comedy routine is harmless and of the stylings of Fozzie Bear or Carrot Top. She'll tend to use humor to brighten the mood of her friends when they're down, but ironically enough, being voiced by Tabitha, she's actually her funniest when she's not in "stage mode" and trying for jokes. As a skunk, she has her musk and gets embarrassed when others call attention to it, but unlike most skunks, she seems to have different scents that is dependent on her mood. She claims her signature aroma for when she's happy is 'Pepper' Mint. Ha ha ha ha.
Vinnie Terrio is a gecko who is somehow blessed with a full head of hair. There isn't much to him other than his clumsiness. He fancies himself as a dancer and idolizes the likes of Elvis, Michael Jackson, and John Travolta. He often has good moves but forgets that his feet sometimes trip over themselves.
Minka Mark, as the song goes, is a "funky artist". She seems to be the show's Pinkie Pie. Hyperactive and fun loving with a bit of a motor mouth. Unlike Pinkie Pie, though, she paints. Her way of seeing the world through the filter of her artwork is very energetic and abstract.
Sunil Nevla is a basketcase. If you thought a skunk was an odd animal for a pet, Sunil is a mongoose. He likes to do magic, but it seems like the only thing he is really talented at is hypnotism and powers of prediction(when the show calls for it). His stage magic often flops. Next to Pepper Clark and Penny Ling, he's probably the most adorable pet in the show, as he's a nervous wreck who freely admits that he is a coward. That is until someone mentions cobras.
Russell Ferguson is a hedgehog who is often confused for a porcupine. He seems to be the pet's designated "welcome wagon" for new day campers. He's serious and organized and so a perfect fit for making sure things run smoothly and that messes are cleaned up.
Penny Ling is sure to be a favorite. She is a cuddly panda. Who doesn't love pandas? The designated mascot of the toyline, she was created to be the face of the show. Fans of Friendship is Magic will probably recognize her as possessing the same qualities of Fluttershy, shy but tough when the situation calls for it.
Littlest Pet Shop makes the mistake of assuming that viewers will latch onto these characters with the same speed as viewers of Friendship is Magic. Whereas Friendship is Magic had six main characters, gave them snappy names and well-rounded personalities, making them easy to identify, Littlest Pet Shop tosses out a roll call way too quickly, takes a while to build up to their better defining traits, has seven main characters and gives them double sided names that are way too complicated. What average kid will remember "Sunil Nevla"?
Even so, after a clunky start, Littlest Pet Shop is shaping up to be a decent time waster and should pick up a few stray fans from The Hub's main hit Friendship is Magic, due to the similarities and the various people working on both. Give it some time, and you'll find it to be bright and fun and moving along at a good clip.
The Amazing World of Gumball is a sitcom of everyday living and going to an everyday school in a not-so-everyday world. It is like what you would get if you combined the parody of suburban American life of The Simpsons with the bizarre unpredictable nature of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but with a more family friendly appeal. Gumball is a show where anything can and will often happen, and it throws out its nonsense with such gusto that you can't help but like it while it wraps up the "what in the hey" with a coating of "awww".
There is not a single character in the show that has any respectable depth, but this is hardly the point. Gumball is a show that tells you just to enjoy the crazy while it lasts. It lacks a certain pop that another similar show, Chowder, possessed in spades, but this is a minor quibble.